FY25 City Budget Includes New Police Program, Funds for High School Project & to Meet Climate Goals

Watertown’s Budget Stable Now, May Not be in Future Years

Watertown City Hall

The City of Watertown’s financial situation looks good for Fiscal Year 2025, which starts July 1, 2024, but the City may face some challenging budgets in the following years, City Manager George told the City Council on Tuesday night. The budget includes funding some ongoing efforts, such as the Watertown Square Area Plan, the Watertown High School project. It also includes funding to implement the City’s Energy and Sustainability Plan, to start the human rights commission, and add new programs, including at the Watertown Police Department. On April 30, Proakis presented his FY25 budget, which will be $203.975 million, which is a 1.96 percent increase from the revised FY24 budget (the current year). The majority of the budget comes from local property taxes, which funds 81 percent, or $165 million in FY25.

Budget Forecast Good for 2024, but Manager Sees Gloomy Conditions in Future

Watertown’s budget will be healthy enough to add several positions in Fiscal Year 2024, but City Manager George Proakis told the City Council Tuesday night to expect some challenging budgets in the years to follow. The FY24 budget, which will be approved by the Council in June and begins July 1, will be $190 million. This is 5.9 percent below the FY23 budget, but Proakis said if you take out the money used to purchase Walkers Pond and the former Parker School, it would be 6.99 percent higher than FY23. The stormy seas ahead are due to five converging forces, Proakis said, and they could impact the budgets from FY25-28. The first factor is the cost of construction, which comes at a time when Watertown is taking on the biggest in its history: a new high school which will cost more than $200 million.

City Manager Gives Outlook on Watertown’s Budget, Philosophy on Contract Negotiations

Watertown City Manager George Proakis. This week, School officials announced an agreement on the Watertown teachers’ contract, but even when that is signed Watertown has six unions on the municipal side yet to be settled. This week, the City Manager revealed his philosophy when approaching these negotiations and how the City budget could impact the talks. He released a memo to the City Council outlining the contracts and the Watertown budget at Tuesday’s Council meeting. While making the budget, Proakis said he and his team are following the Council’s budget priorities, which include creating walkable neighborhoods and small business programs, improving infrastructure, using green vehicles, and upgrading parks and playgrounds.

Council Approves Adding $4.3 Million to FY23 Budget, Plans to Spend Most of Funds

Watertown City Hall

Watertown’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget increased by $4.325 million when the City Council approved the budget amendment on Nov. 9. Most of the additional funds will go to help purchase the former Parker School or will go into the High School project stabilization fund. City Manager George Proakis gave the details of the budget amendment for the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2023. The additional fund mostly come from accounts that came in higher than when the budget was approved last spring, Proakis said.

City Manager Commits to Building a New High School Without Sacrificing Education or Green Features

Ai3 ArchitectsA rendering of the main entrance to Watertown High School from Columbia Street. Watertown has plans to build a new high school which will create enough energy to cover the amount needed to operate the building, be equipped with state of the art equipment and technology, and will educate students for decades to come. Even facing climbing construction costs, City Manager George Proakis vowed that the new school will be built.

Watertown will get a significant portion of the new high school reimbursed —  $44.2 million — by the State through the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). The cost of the project approved by the state was $138.6 million, but since the approval in March the cost of construction has escalated. In July, the School Building Committee approved “value engineering” steps to use less costly materials and reduce the scope of the project to keep it on budget.